Ending six months of speculation, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster announced Monday he will not run for re-election in the Orlando-based district he now represents but will instead switch to run in the Lake County-based Congressional District 11.
The move both clears the way in Webster’s Congressional District 10 for Democrats who see the redrawn district as theirs for the taking, and sets up a confrontation in CD 11 with Republican Justin Grabelle, the former chief of staff and hand-picked successor to retiring U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent.
In the redistricting last year, both CD 10 and CD 11 were dramatically redrawn. CD 10 shifted eastward, taking in largely Democratic areas in west Orange County and west Orlando, while dropping strongly Republican areas in Lake County. CD 11 moved southward and picked up those Lake County areas that had strongly supported Webster in his 2010, ’12 and ’14 elections.
Webster blasted the redistricting of CD 10 as early as August, saying it could no longer support a Republican candidate. In December, after the boundaries were settled, and again in January, he said he was contemplating running in CD 11 instead, because the newly-defined district contains so many of his former and presumably loyal voters.
Webster and his wife also own a house in CD 11, in addition to their longtime home in Winter Garden, and he said they had been planning to move there anyway.
The natures of the districts have changed so much that Webster Monday called them “newly created” districts, suggesting neither of them had any valid history.
“I’m running for another term in Congress because there is still much to be done to reform the process and fix what is broken in Washington,” Webster stated in a news release. “For the past five years, I have fought to change the power based, staff-driven Congressional process into one based upon principles.”
His switch to CD 11 leaves CD 10 with a heavy Democratic voter base and no big-name Republican candidates, let alone a Republican incumbent. Thus, the Democrats running there, former Orlando police chief Val Demings, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, businessman Bob Poe and lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy, are now likely seeing the August primary as the finish line to election.
The move also might start dominoes to topple. Much of CD 10 used to be in Congressional District 5. The incumbent in CD 5, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, has talked about switching to CD 10 for the same reason that Webster has switched to CD 11.
Webster now will take on Grabelle, from The Villages.
Webster a former Florida House speaker, has generally taken a low-profile in Congress. That changed last year when he took what many thought was an audacious move, but which worked: He ran for U.S. House speaker, on a platform call for broader participation in decision-making. Though he only garnered a few votes, his candidacy at one point made it obvious that then-House Speaker John Boehner could not be re-elected to that position without a floor fight, and Boehner resigned Congress altogether. What’s more, when he stepped aside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy found himself in the same position, and bowed out of the speaker’s race. Webster became a national player.
“Last year, I ran for Speaker against John Boehner and the powerful Washington establishment because I believe that our country deserves a legislative process that works,” Webster stated in his release.